The campaign to get radio stations to pay up for the music they play marches on. With revenues from recorded music sales declining, rightsholders have turned their eyes in recent years to commercial US radio, which currently pays songwriters (but not performers or record labels) for the tunes that power their business.
The record labels now have Pandora on their side. The influential webcaster just wrapped up its own music licensing negotiations with rightsholders last week as both sides at last agreed to a deal that each could live with. With its own future secure for the next few years, Pandora is now turning its attention to the public performance debate here in the US, saying that the issue is a simple matter of fairness: why should webcasters have to pay more for music than traditional radio does?
Radio, of course, continues to claim that it is, in some special way, a promoter of music and that it drives tremendous interests in artists. That interest, in turn, is supposed to translate into increased album sales, ticket sales, and publicity opportunities.
Why this effect would suddenly cease to apply once one starts streaming the music on the Internet via satellite (even if the scale might currently be more limited) remains unclear; certainly, a powerful case for harmonization can be made, though the “fairness” argument could clearly go either way. Radio might start paying a performance right; on the other hand, perhaps webcasters and satellite radio companies should simply stop paying one, relying on the old argument about promotion.